Mark Hall

Bye bye i

By Mark Hall
July 03, 2008 10:00 AM EDT
Woe to the ever-shrinking brand. Not just in terms of customer loyalty or profit margins, but in name.

IBM once sold something called System 38, which begat the AS/400, that led to the iSeries, that became System i, which shrunk to i5. Now the company offers you a single, pathetic vowel, the i. The IBM i.

Almost makes you want to weep for IBM's sad, identity-deprived technology.

Once you're done crying for it, shed a tear or two for yourself if you're running i apps. At least that's the view of David Leichner, chief marketing officer of BluePhoenix Solutions Inc. of Cary, N.C.

He says the legacy technology is losing market share. Even supporters are hesitant to stay with i. A survey last month of Common members, the largest user group for i technology, showed a mere 23% planned to move to the latest i hardware.

Leichner says the fastest part of his company's legacy-migration business is moving old RPG-based i stuff to .NET or Java. Not because the RPG apps have stopped working, he admits. But they're just too risky to keep alive.

The risk comes from departing Baby Boomers who are the only ones who understand the poorly documented code and the convoluted business processes, Leichner claims. They're also the sys admins who run the data backups and know how to patch the packaged software that probably was the reason you bought the IBM gear in the first place.

When those workers go, he asks, who will support your app? Is it a risk you're willing to take?

Leichnor acknowledges that legacy migrations are neither fun nor cheap. He says, "No CIO will do it unless they have to."

But he's betting you'll have to. Demographics are on his side. Or not.